The sign at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Cottage Place in White Plains marking the entrance of the White Plains Mall and listing prominent tenants was torn down Dec. 8 at a groundbreaking ceremony marking the official start of construction on the two-phase $650 million Hamilton Green development on the former mall site. The sign was one of the last remnants of the mall, which itself had been demolished to allow site preparation work to begin for the new construction. Four buildings would have a total of 860 residential units. RXR and The Cappelli Organization are the developers with Louis Cappelli’s LRC Construction handling the construction of both phases.
Phase I involves 12-story 162-unit building at 7 Cottage Place along with a 25-story 308-unit tower at 240 Hamilton Ave. There would be a 515-space underground parking garage, about 39,000 square feet of retail space and about 55,000 square feet of open space. Phase I is expected to be completed in 2025.
The mall opened in 1972 and is remembered by many people as the long-time location of an office of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. At the groundbreaking ceremony, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach recalled that the first time his mother allowed him to go shopping by himself it was to the White Plains Mall.
“I’m doing the math in my head; it must have been 1976, 77, I believe the first time my mother let me and my brothers and our friends go out shopping by ourselves we came to what was then THE mall, the White Plains Mall,” Roach said. “I came out with a Boston T-shirt, which was a band for those of you who don’t know, not the city, and I think an Aerosmith poster, okay? That’s where I was at the time but it was exciting and it was fun and it served its purpose and now we’re ready to move on to a new day.”
Developer Louis Cappelli said the groundbreaking marks a very special day for him.
“This groundbreaking by all rights should not be happening, not in this financial environment,” Cappelli said. “It’s almost like the book titled ‘The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t.’ This was the closing and the project that almost wasn’t and it wasn’t because of anything anybody did because everybody worked very hard for two years, but the markets almost got in our way.”
Cappelli described having a special relationship with RXR on a number of projects.
“In 1998 we closed our first deal,” Cappelli said. “They’ve been my friends, they’ve been my business partners, they’ve been staunch supporters of me and at the end of the day this project had no shot without having made a handshake with them in mid-2020 and them sticking all the way through this right to the end.”
Cappelli describe things in the financial world right now as being “very tenuous.”
“This is the first time we will have an adaptive reuse and a reimagination of a mall site to a multifamily mixed-use site,” Joseph Graziose, senior vice president of residential development at RXR said at the ceremony. “Back in 1998 when the partners at RXR first did business with Louis it was here in White Plains and we’re really excited about continuing our relationship with The Cappelli Organization here in his backyard.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “This development along with other developments that we see in other communities is a statement that despite the obstacle we can still overcome it and it’s a statement that some of us came to the mall to watch a football game at a bar or to sit in a DMV but only a handful of us had the vision to come up with what this could be and that’s what we’re watching now.”
Joan McDonald, Westchester County’s director of operations who also chairs the county’s Industrial Development Agency which provided tax incentives for the Hamilton Green project, talked about the project’s proximity to the White Plains Metro-North train station and the fact that she was on a phone call a few days ago with MTA and Metro-North leadership. She was told that while ridership by commuters into New York City is not yet back to where it was before the Covid pandemic, ridership by reverse commuters has returned to prepandemic levels.
“It’s projects like this that appeal to young people … that work in Manhattan, don’t want to live in Manhattan necessarily, want to have an easy commute,” McDonald said. “Projects like this with the units that are being built, the retail space, the restaurants, the walkability of White Plains, the green space and the environmental sustainability initiatives that are in a project like this are critically important to Generation X and Generation Z.”